Are Colleges Good Entrepreneurship Incubators?

Author: Notre Dame ESTEEM

Are Colleges Good Entrepreneurship Incubators

Studies show that employers want students to graduate with entrepreneurial traits. Business owners want employees who are not cookie cutter theory folks but graduates who have first hand experience with the hustle and ambition that goes part and parcel with entrepreneurship. However, historically, colleges have been criticized for crushing the creativity of their students for centuries, so can these spaces truly help incubate great entrepreneurs?

First, we should start by saying, as a college that teaches entrepreneurship, we have a bias. However, as a college that teaches entrepreneurship we simply need to make a case for why we have the ability to help people foster their entrepreneurial spirit and give entrepreneurs the skills they need to succeed. So while colleges and schools are known for diminishing creativity, we should also point out that colleges are also known for being great places for socialization, networking and fostering teamwork; all things that are necessary for starting a business. In fact, though there are many perks to having colleges as incubators, this might be one of the highest in importance. 

Another thing you see in the classroom that you don't get in many places are experienced entrepreneurs teaching you in a small class setting. Most professors in the college setting are experienced in the subject they are teaching - they are not simply discussing theory but can offer first hand experience in a way that incubators should. The proximity to a vast number of past entrepreneurs willing to work with students is rare in places outside of colleges and it can be a great way to, again, gather more than simply theory. 

Another misconception about college is that it is all about the job at the end. However, college teaches you many things both about yourself and about the world around you. Many entrepreneurs find projects all around them in the college setting because they are learning so much and experiencing things they have never experienced. This personal growth leads to having a greater understanding of the world, and having a greater understanding of problem solving. This is part of the reason why college business plan competitions and college VC funds have become such powerful tools for encouraging students to find problems and solve them. It is an incredibly powerful time in your life to be empowered by those around you to take large risks and understand problems and solutions in ways you may never be able to do in the future, with the constraints on time and employment. 

One of the competing narratives out there is that great entrepreneurs drop out of college. It's true that there have been a few that have, however it is entirely rare. If you think of the millions of entrepreneurs and narrow it down to only those who dropped out of college, the number is simply miniscule. Dropping out of college or not going to college not been seen in any national trends to be a great way to get rich quickly and through college you are able to create networks and skills that will go beyond entrepreneurship. 

So what do you think - can colleges be good incubators for entrepreneurship?